Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman greets well-wishers at an event announcing her candidacy for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination on September 22, 2009 in Fullerton, California. Whitman will vie for the Republican nomination with state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell. Gov. Arnold Shwarzenegger is prevented from running again under term limits. Whitman has already received the endorsement of former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who will serve as her campaign chairman.
Meg Whitman is not afraid to spread the wealth -- her wealth. As a candidate seeking the Republican nomination for Governor, Whitman has already spent $59 million to take her message to the voters.
Moreover, she has promised to spent at least $150 million to secure nomination and election, if necessary. That amount would easily eclipse the $85 million spent by Michael Bloomberg in his successful re-election as New York City's mayor last year, and make Whitman's self-funded campaign the most expensive in history.
Whitman says that the expenditure is necessary to make her as well known as her likely Democratic opponent, current state Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown. Maybe so, but when it comes to self-financed campaigns, Californians have a reputation for making big spenders pay.
Consider the following: In 2006, state Controller Steve Westly spent $38 million of his own money for the Democratic nomination for Governor, only to lose to the less-funded state Treasurer Phil Angelides.
In 1998, businessman Democrat Al Checchi poured in $40 million from his checkbook in a losing effort to win his party's nomination for Governor; Checchi came in third in a three-person race.
To be sure, Whitman's foray takes self-funded campaigns to a new level. She has mailed 500,000 magazines describing her candidacy to voters throughout the state and scheduled several half-hour commercials in the expensive California media markets. Money seems to be no object. But less certain is whether Whitman will be the object of the voters' affection come November.
In a state where excess is a way of life, it has yet to be demonstrated that bags of money buy voter affection in elections for statewide offices.
Time will tell.